Monday, September 14, 2009

Not from Around Here

When I lived in Missouri, I never quite got used to "40 Hwy" instead of "Hwy 40".

We're pretty flexible in WI. You can say I-94, US 45, State Hwy 100, and County Hwy G or 94 (or just "the I"), 45, 100, and G, or put just Hwy in front of any of the numbers or a letter, (you could also say County G) and still sound like a native. I've never heard WI-100, although it says that on the signs. We don't have an exact equivalent to Michigan's M-20. M-80 is a really big firecracker. If you insert "the" in any combination except "the Interstate" or "the I" we won't say anything, we'll still be nice to you, we'll just know you're not from here, which is not in itself a bad thing.

If you call I-94 "the Toll Road" we can pretty much narrow it down to Illinois, probably near Chicago. There are no tollbooths in this state. We know that the s in Illinois is silent, so Illinois rhymes with "to annoy". We usually only call it "Ellen noise" when talking with good friends from across the state line, and only in good fun. We won't even argue when people from other states correct our pronunciation of our home state. They insist it is Wes Consin, not just dividing the syllables wrong, but clearly separating it into two words. Some even say West Consin. I always wonder where East Consin is. We just smile and nod, knowing that it is officially pronounced Wi scon' sin (those are syllable breaks, not word breaks) from the State Capitol building in Madison to the Town Board meeting in the smallest town. (We have Towns, not Townships, just as Louisiana has parishes, not counties.)

When we're excited or in a hurry, we may call it W'sconsin or even 'Sconsin. I have friends from 'Sconsin Rapids. More state and regional differences to follow.

4 Comments:

Blogger Bob Wingate said...

Part 1:

"When I lived in Missouri, I never quite got used to "40 Hwy" instead of "Hwy 40"."

We get that a lot from people from all sorts of foreign states.

(Sigh.) I'll try again...

It's a matter of consistency. You'd *Never* say Street 40th, no, it's 40th Street. So why in the world would you say Highway 40, when it's obviously 40 Highway?

Yeah I know people in other parts of the country say it the other way, but that doesn't mean we should. It's like people from New York City who come to K. C. for a visit, step out of a building, and wave at the taxi cabs as they zoom by (I think they expect them to stop for some reason). Hey, New Yorkers...the device you talk into...IT'S CALLED A TELEPHONE. Among other things, you can use it to call for a cab!

I digress. Not everyone in Missouri puts the number in front of the Highway, by the way. Pretty much everyone does in the western part of the state (also Kansas at least as far out as Great Bend), but it's more of a mixed bag over in Saint Louis. But then there's the Saint Louis accent (which most of the Saint Louisians deny they have). People raised there have great difficulty pronouncing a long o sound immediately before an r. It would sound like...and I hope you're ready for this...highway farty. They also eat with knives, spoons and farks.

Good people though, it's just that here in western Missouri we can say to a stranger, "Hey, you're from Saint Louis" and surprise them; fun stuff, that.

Native Saint Louisians also tend not to describe themselves by what suburb they came from. When two people from Saint Louis meet for the first time, the first question is *ALWAYS* "What high school did you go to"? Even if they're both doctors and went through all those years of med school. I've never heard anyone from anywhere else lead off with that question.

Back to the highways...
Like most everywhere else, interstates get the "I" treatment; I-35, I-70, etc.

Numbers of four or more syllables; we're liable to just say, for instance, "go up Two-ninety-one" or "take One-fifty-two", and leave it at that.

Re: your Michigan comment. Being as K.C.'s in a two-state area, there used to be references to K-7 and M-7, K-10 and M-10, to differentiate between Kansas and Missouri state highways. That seems to have fallen out of favor the last 20 years or so.

September 14, 2009 at 11:53 PM  
Blogger Bob Wingate said...

Part 2

Sometimes people call our lettered highways "county highways", but they're not. They're Missouri state supplemental highways. By now, most if not all of our counties also have their own county highway systems, and those vary widely from county to county. In fact where I live, Jackson County has a county highway system based on numbers combined with a letter for direction (7-E runs north and south right by my house; the E is because it's 7 miles East of The Paseo (pronounced puh-SAY-oh, not PASSY-oh), a major north-south street in midtown K.C.). But you'd never know this unless I told you. They stopped putting up new signs 40 years ago, and the ones which were standing are long gone (and yes, I wish I had one of those).

Trivia in case you don't know...the first two states to number their highways systematically were Missouri (1928) and Wisconsin (maybe the same year, not sure). These two state highway systems were the models for the numbered US highways.

"Illinois rhymes with "to annoy""

Ha! Good one.

"Wi scon' sin"

What! (wih) - SSKAWN - sin? You've got to be pulling my leg. I didn't even hear it that way in school.

Okay, I'll be good and help you with the "Mis-ZOU-ree", "Mis-ZOU-ruh" controversy. In the two big urban & suburban metro areas (Saint Louis and Kansas City), you'll hear "Mis-ZOU-ree". In rural areas in the middle part of the state, also in our capital Jefferson City, you'll hear "Mis-ZOU-ruh". In our third largest metro, Springfield...well, it depends who you talk to.

Here in the K.C. metro, we cringe when we hear the "-ruh" ending. And technically, "Mis-ZOU-ree" is closer to the Native American word, which linguistic anthropologists claim sounded something like "May-SOU-ray".

Bottom line, both modern pronunciations are accepted as official.

September 14, 2009 at 11:55 PM  
Blogger Papa Bear said...

Well, I could at least call it consistent if you said "40th Hwy". I think of it as Hwy #40, like Form 1040, not the 1,040th form in a series. I don't expect to change anyone's mind; I was just pointing out that I never got used to it, and that I don't know of any other part of the country where they do it that way. This post was inspired by a post on another blog I read. The author was commenting on the way southern Californians say "the 5" instead of "I-5".

Funny you should mention the high school thing. In Wisconsin, it's almost expected that once someone learns what town you grew up in, they'll ask what high school you went to, even if they grew up in a different town or even a different part of the state. Especially in the larger cities, it's a way of narrowing you down to a neighborhood. Then they want to know if you know so-and-so who went there, up to ten years before or after you did.

The exception is if they know your town only has one high school (or aren't sure). I lived in a town that didn't have its own high school, so I attended school in a neighboring town that only has one public high school. But I attended a private school, which they may not have heard of. If they have, they assume I know someone who goes there now. It's connected with a church I'm not exactly on speaking terms with. I graduated 21 years ago, and since then, I've been in that building exactly twice—both times when classmates got married. I know they're just trying to be friendly, but I'd rather avoid the awkward explanations.

September 15, 2009 at 5:01 AM  
Blogger Papa Bear said...

"What! (wih) - SSKAWN - sin? You've got to be pulling my leg. I didn't even hear it that way in school."

Actually, it's more like wih-SKAHN-sin. You obviously never went to school there. Do you remember the '88 vice presidential debates when Senator Bentsen called Dan Quayle the Senator from in-DYAWN-ah? Senator, I lived in IN-dee-ANN-ah for 12 years, and no one in Indiana pronounced it that way. I've traveled all over the United States, and no American ever pronounced it that way.

Oh, and in Wisconsin all county highways have one or two letters and no numbers, and only county highways have letters. Each county has its own system. So Racine County G has nothing to do with Milwaukee County G. That's not to say that counties can't cooperate when it suits them. When Racine County H crosses County Line Road (Hwy KR) it becomes Kenosha County H.

September 15, 2009 at 5:13 AM  

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